Behold, friends, the rich bounty of the British car boot sale!
That's right, it's the Arcade Legends: Space Invaders unit, the bane of every bargain hunter on the fair isle of Great Britain. If you go to one of those legendary things they call a car boot sale over here (anyone who isn't living here might call it a flea market, or a yard sale, or whatever- just a place where people sell absolute junk) you are almost certainly going to find one of these damn things, or maybe one of those Namco ones, or the Mega Drive ones, or whatever- the dreaded Plug in and Play unit. Surely you've seen of these things before, but just on the off-chance you haven't, let's go over it, in wonderful sparkling Phot-O-Vision!
So, this is the thing itself. It's basically just a joystick with two buttons on either side, and it just needs 4 AA batteries. To hook it up to the TV...
... You have to use these things, good ol' fashioned RCA plugs. They're not as nice as a SCART lead, but they'll do in a pinch.
Just violate your TV by inserting these things in the orifice of your choice- at the front if you can, or with the SCART adaptor that comes with these things...
... Then switch it on, and hey presto, shitty arcade game conversions all over your TV! The miracle of modern science, eh?!
Now, just on the off-chance that you're blind (or stupid) this little slab of plastic doesn't just have Space Invaders, and in a sick display of irony, Space Invaders is probably the least entertaining game on here. It comes with four other vintage Taito arcade games, two of which (Qix and Phoenix) are actually kind-of well known, and two of which (Colony 7 and Lunar Rescue) are pretty unheard of. Of the five games here, Colony 7 and Phoenix are totally worth your time and money if you can find this thing for cheap, because they're both as close to the arcade originals as you need them to be, and they're both great fun. Phoenix is yet another Space Invaders clone from the 80s, but not only is it nice and colourful, it also adds in a lot of variety, like the Phoenix Egg rounds and the mothership you get to fight, and the 'shield' button that actually proves to be useful, just as long as you use it when it's appropriate, otherwise it'll leave you open. Colony 7, on the other hand, is like a much meaner version of Missile Command with no ammo limit, no trackball, and no sense of shame in kicking the living crap out of you- you move a targetting recticle around the screen and try to defend both the city and your two cannons from aliens, which is extremely difficult and pretty intense at times. The good thing about these two particular games here? They're very good conversions. This bears repeating, because the other three games on this unit?
Well, whoever slapped this thing together must've phoned in for these ones- they're pretty bad.
It's not that they're bad games in and of themselves, it's just that they botched the ports here. Qix gets off pretty lightly- the game doesn't quite run at its proper speed (it's, like, 20% slower than the real deal) and the sound effects got completely butchered, but hey, it's still Qix at heart, and it hasn't been rendered completely unplayable. It's just mildly perplexing that they managed to nail Phoenix and Colony 7, yet messed up this one. Lunar Rescue runs about 40% slower than its arcade counterpart (quite an amazing achievement, considering that it's Lunar Rescue and not even that more advanced than Space Invaders) which makes it an absolute chore to play, and half the sound effects are missing- a shame, because the only other home port is on Taito Legends 2, and it's very fun when it's actually working properly. However, the star of the show, Space Invaders itself, exposes a problem with the name of the unit. Y'see, it's officially called Arcade Legends: Space Invaders, but the point I put to you is this:
... If it's called Arcade Legends: Space Invaders, then why does it use the fucking NES version of the game?!
Just look at these two screenshots. It's not negotiable, the version on this unit is almost the same as the NES version, and in no way even close to the arcade game. In fact, that's not quite true- it's even worse than the NES version. It's some kind of bizarre reverse-engineered clone of the NES version done by a bunch of chimpanzees in a shed somewhere in Amish country, because it takes out the colours, it takes out the alternating 2-player mode, and it makes a ham-fisted attempt at replacing the awful NES sound effects with samples from the arcade game... And they're completely wrong. OK, Space Invaders is one of those games that's very important in the annals of video game history but hasn't aged too well, but it was never this bad. They couldn't even get the moon background in there.
So, 2 out of 5 isn't bad... But my curiosity is killing me. I wonder what's inside this little slab of plastic?
Time for Mr. Crappy Plug-in-and-Play to meet my partner in crime, Mr. Screwdriver.
Is that it?
That's right. The guts in this thing are tiny. That printed circuit board you see is basically all there is to it, aside from some glue, and it's about as a big as a Game Boy cartridge. The heaviest thing inside this unit is actually the joystick- one of the nicest joysticks I've seen on these plug-in things, actually; very solid, sturdy and responsive, and unlike the pretty crappy ones on the Namco units, it actually feels like it's well-made, which makes it all the more puzzling, wasting an excellent stick like this on Space Invaders. It also makes a wonderful clicking noise, like all good arcade sticks should.
Some may question the point of covering this little thing on my site, especially since I've spent most of this article moaning about the NES version of Space Invaders, but if you happen to be a big, big fan of Colony 7 or Phoenix, then it's really, really easy to find one of these things, and they're usually pretty cheap. Pick it up if you want a quick, convenient way to play these games. If you're buying it for Space Invaders, though, don't. Just don't. There's a million other ways to play Space Invaders, and let me tell you, this isn't the way to do it.
For getting two out of five right, Arcade Legends: Space Invaders is awarded...
In a sentence, Arcade Legends: Space Invaders is...
For Colony 7 fans only.
Now that I'm done invading your space, let's go back to the index, OK?